Best Free Computer Chess

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Introduction

Playing chess imageThe art of chess has fascinated down the ages, through Alice and beyond.

Computers provide countless opportunities for learning, playing, practicing, studying, and even watching both online and offline. Convenient freeware chess programs are available that give you all you need to do these things straight out of a single box at any level. Great for beginners and experts alike.

If you or your children are just learning chess... Don't panic! There is plenty of friendly introductory material online including Chess Tutorials recommended at this end of this page.

This review of free chess software together with chess-related resources on the Internet will aim to address the varying needs of players, ranging from the casual to the keen.

 

Rated Products

Arena  

An excellent freeware choice which appeals to many chess enthusiasts


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
Rich features and attractive interface, complete with many preinstalled engines. Able to handle Shuffle Chess or Fischer Random Chess.
Larger file size due to multiple engines.
Read full review...

Crafty Chess Interface  

An attractive chess interface coupled to the powerful Crafty engine


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Open source)
Lightweight portable application; intuitive interface; runs nicely straight out of the box; adjustable engine strength and thinking time.
Runs on Crafty engine only.
Read full review...

PyChess  

An advanced chess client originally coded for Linux


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Open source)
Advanced chess client with the default chess engine or third-party chess engines, supports Internet chess, saving games, opening books, hint and spy modes, etc.
Originally developed for GNOME desktops, presumably running well for other Linux desktops and Windows.
Read full review...

Also recommended

Desktop Chess

  • Portable WinboardX + Deep Rybka 2.2 gives you a handy free portable software package containing Winboard (a well known chessboard GUI for Windows) coupled with three different chess engines of different levels. Rybka 2.2 remains one of the strongest available free chess engines, and it can be used for game analysis. You can also play against two lesser engines (Delfi 4.5 and Phalanx). Portable WinboardX + Deep Rybka 2.2 used to be one of Gizmo's main recommendations, but this free software package does not seem amenable to development. Still plenty to enjoy. [Portable, Windows]

  • Haundrix - a fun program with a nice assortment of engines (Crafty 23.0, GNU Chess 5.07.9b and Sjeng 11.2). Its sound effects may well appeal to children, for whom the lack of an undo button could—in some circumstances—be an advantage during actual play. Program development seems to have stopped at version 0.1.0, but Haundrix seems to work fine even on Windows 7. [Windows, Linux, including 64-bit]

  • Fritz 5.32 is the free version of the commercial Fritz software and is considered a must play for chess lovers, because it allows you to sample one of the notoriously powerful Fritz engines, with its characteristically quirky tactical play (and you can also grab slightly more recent Fritz 6 engine). Unfortunately, Fritz 5.32 refuses to install on my Vista set up, maybe due to multicore processor issues. [Windows]

  • Sigma has an excellent reputation with Mac users and the full version is now freeware. Sigma comes with its own built-in engine which can be adjusted for strength. [Mac]

Online Chess

  • Chess.com, play chess online right away against the computer or after logging in, play against human opponents.
  • ChessWorld.net, play friendly online chess at your own pace after a free signing up.
  • ChesSOS also gives you the chance to challenge other players at Fischer Random.

Mobile Chess

  • Gizmo's recommended free Android app is Chess for Android and Jeroen Carolus's Chess as listed here.

  • For Apple iOS devices, try Chess.com and Stockfish Chess which are compatible for the iPad and iPhone as recommended here.

Learning Chess

  • Lucas Chess is an interesting freeware chess tutor which challenges you to play and beat increasingly strong engines/levels of play from beginner up to expert (think Rybka!). As in some video games, the program expects you to win twice at any given level before moving on to the next one. In tutor mode, Lucas Chess will flag a stronger move found by the engine and give you gameplay hints on lines of play. Your reaction to Lucas Chess will probably depend on individual learning style and personal taste. Well worth exploring. Portable version available. [Windows and Linux]

Internet Chess Clients

  • BabasChessClient provides an attractive interface to play or watch human games on the FICS (Free Internet Chess Player) network. An interesting feature is the ability to go over a game you've just watched or played with some analysis from Crafty. [Windows; Linux with Wine]

  • If you enjoy modern chess variants like Crazyhouse, Losers, Suicide, Kriegspiel etc., try open source internet chess client Thief [Windows; Linux with Wine]

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

Chess Tutorials

  • ChessCorner, an attractive site provides an excellent learning tool and a sound starting point for beginners. The simple but effective presentation gives you the feel of having quite a sizable interactive book at your fingertips, enticing you to explore many aspects of the game at leisure. Animations work well and there are plenty of well indexed games to play through or download. A seamless experience, highly recommended.
  • Chessville is a bit more advanced but also has a nice collection of learning resources with plenty of advice and annotated games.
  • The Exeter Chess Club sports "a place to enjoy and learn about chess" with plenty of coaching material to browse and study.

 

Online Chess Resources

Online chess databases and e-books

  • ChessGames.com has a search engine which provides access to a great free online database of historical chess games, some annotated. You can either play games back on ChessGames' online java app or download as .pgn files.

  • The Bishop's Bounty should help you locate and download free e-books on chess from various sites, including Chessville.

Online chess puzzles

  • A large collection of daily chess puzzles (mainly taken from real matches) is available at chessvideos.tv. The interactive applet has good graphics and the hints are stimulating. A winner.

  • For a catalogued collection of puzzles, try wtharvey.com: searchable by Grand Master, opening and year. Some composed chess problems too.

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

I'm the developer of Lucas Chess (in group Chess freeware for learning).
Current program web is http://www-lucaschess.rhcloud.com
Please change this reference.

Cheers
Lucas

Thank you. The link has now been updated. MC - Site Manager.

Thank you very much for your quick resolution.

Regarding Sigma Chess as a Mac program, OSX Lion will not run it because Sigma is a PowerPC program running under Rosetta emulation.

Very useful chess links and information.
I use to read the chess headlines from an other chess news aggregator http://latestnewsheadline.com/chess.htm
Unfortunately, some good chess clients or free internet chess servers are missing from the article.